Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mental health condition that affects people in northern latitudes, particularly women, has gained recognition and understanding since it was first described by psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal in 1984. SAD is characterized by low mood, cravings for carbohydrates, and persistent fatigue throughout an entire season.
Rosenthal first noticed his own lower energy and productivity during winter, which led him to explore the phenomenon further. He and his colleagues found success in treating a patient’s SAD with light therapy, using light boxes to simulate sunlight. Their research gained attention after an article in the Washington Post, resulting in many individuals reaching out to describe similar winter-related malaise.
Motivated by their findings, Rosenthal and his colleagues conducted a study involving 29 bipolar patients, successfully treating their SAD with light therapy. As a result of their groundbreaking research, SAD was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1987, classified as a type of recurrent major depression emerging during specific seasons.
It’s important to note that SAD is not listed as a standalone condition in the DSM, but rather as a subtype of major depression. This distinction recognizes the unique characteristics and timing of SAD symptoms. Additionally, there is a milder form of SAD known as the “winter blues,” which falls under the SAD category.
Although winter is the most common season for SAD to occur, it can also manifest during other seasons. Understanding the symptoms and potential treatments for SAD can significantly improve the quality of life for those affected by this condition.
As awareness and research continue to grow, it is hoped that more individuals experiencing SAD will seek appropriate support and treatment. The recognition of SAD as a legitimate mental health condition has paved the way for greater understanding, leading to more effective interventions for those affected.
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